The Osmonds are an American family music group with a long and
varied career—a career that took them from singing barbershop music as
children to achieving success as teen-music idols, from producing a hit
television show to continued success as solo and group performers. The
Osmonds are devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their religious values have influenced their careers.
They began as a barbershop quartet consisting of brothers Alan Osmond, Wayne Osmond, Merrill Osmond, and Jay Osmond. They were later joined by younger siblings Donny Osmond and Jimmy Osmond. Their only sister Marie Osmond, who rarely sang with her brothers at that time, launched a successful solo career in 1973. Older brothers George Virl Osmond, Jr. (Virl) and Tom Osmond were born deaf and did not originally perform, although they later made occasional appearances, most notably on family Christmas specials in the 1970s. All of the Osmonds were born in Ogden, Utah except the youngest, Jimmy, who was born in Canoga Park, California. They have sold 102 million records worldwide.
Barbershop and variety showsThe Osmond Brothers' career began in 1958 when Alan, Wayne, Merrill, and Jay began singing barbershop music for local audiences in and around Ogden. In their made-for-TV movie "Inside the Osmonds", they explain that they originally performed to earn money to support Virl and Tom in buying hearing aids and serving missions for the church. Despite their young ages (Alan was 9, Wayne 7, Merrill 5, and Jay 3) and within a few years, the boys' talent and stage presence were strong enough that their father, George Osmond, took them to audition for Lawrence Welk in California. Welk turned them down, but on the same trip, they visited Disneyland and were hired to perform there after joining an adult barbershop quartet for some impromptu singing.
The Osmond Brothers were regulars on the Jerry Lewis Show in 1969 and they continued to tour and perform with Andy Williams. But soon the Osmond Brothers decided they wanted to perform popular music and shed their variety-show image. They wanted to become a rock-and-roll band. The change was a difficult one for their father, who was suspicious of rock-and-roll. But he was persuaded and the boys began performing as a pop band. To this end, the Osmonds recorded a single, "Flower Music", for UNI records in 1967. They achieved only modest success at first, but they found fame in 1971.
Pop music success (1971–1972)Record producer Mike Curb saw the Osmonds (no longer called "The Osmond Brothers") perform as a band and recognized that they combined a rare mix of polished performing style, instrumental skill, and vocal talent. He helped the Osmonds get a record contract with MGM and arranged for them to record at Muscle Shoals with R&B producer Rick Hall. Under Hall's guidance, the Osmonds hit the top spot on the pop chart with "One Bad Apple" in 1971. The Osmonds soon had hits with other light, R&B-style pop numbers like "Double Lovin'" (#14) and "Yo-Yo" (#3). In each of these hits, the formula was the same; Merrill sang lead, and Donny was "co-lead" in essence, singing the "hook" or "chorus" of the song.
Rock-and-roll and OsmondmaniaWith their clean-cut image, talent, and energetic pop-rock sound, the Osmonds toured to crowds of screaming fans in the U.S. They even had the 1972–1973 Saturday-morning cartoon series The Osmonds on ABC-TV. By this time the Osmonds had broken through in the UK as well: all members of the Osmond family, counting group and solo recordings, charted 13 singles on the UK charts during 1973. Some observers coined a new word, "Osmondmania," to describe the phenomenon, by analogy with the similar "Beatlemania" of nearly a decade earlier: the same type of hysteria was generated at their concerts during this period.
But changes and challenges soon arrived. The older boys were of age to go on church missions, yet they believed they could reach more people through their music. They recorded an ambitious album in 1973 called The Plan, perhaps best described as a Mormon concept album with progressive rock aspirations. One reviewer suggested that The Plan carried a too-strong religious message—Mormonism is, after all, fairly conservative and not usually associated with the themes of rock-and-roll. He likewise suggested that the music was too varied and experimental. The album produced only two minor hits: "Let Me In" and "Goin' Home" (both #36 in the USA, although they both went top 5 in the UK). Furthermore, the older boys may have wanted to reduce the regular touring that is a necessity in popular music but not so good for marriage.
Solo careers take offDonny, and to a lesser extent, Marie and Jimmy, soon began to emerge as solo artists. Jimmy had hits in Japan, and in 1972 had a #1 hit in the United Kingdom with "Long Haired Lover from Liverpool". Marie hit #1 on the U.S. country chart in 1973 with "Paper Roses"—she was only 13. And Donny had his string of pop hits including "Go Away Little Girl" (#1), "Puppy Love" (#3), and "The Twelfth of Never" (#8). From 1971 to 1976, he had 12 Top 40 hits, including 5 in the Top 10. Donny's popularity, and his numerous solo hits, have led many to assume he was the group's lead. But Merrill was the lead singer; Donny would usually sing the choruses, thus being a "co-lead". Donny's emergence as a solo star and the record-company's desire to appeal to the teen-girl audience often thrust Donny out in front of the group.
By now the family was touring, recording, creating, and producing for 5 technically separate artists: The Osmonds, Donny Osmond, Marie Osmond, and Jimmy Osmond—plus Donny and Marie had begun recording duets and had hits with "I'm Leaving It Up to You" (#4) and "Morning Side of the Mountain" (#8). Through all the stress and pressures created by these many efforts, the family hung together. "Inside the Osmonds" depicts the family mottoes as being "It doesn't matter who's out front, as long as it's an Osmond" and "Family, faith, and career. In that order".
The original Osmonds as a group still produced hits. In 1974, "Love Me for a Reason" reached #10 in the U.S. and #1 in the U.K. The Irish boy band Boyzone took the song to #2 in the U.K. in 1994.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
In 2003, the Osmond Family was honored for its achievements in the entertainment industry with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Many within the industry believed that they had earned this honor sometime previously, although it was eventually given to them, and, unlike a number of the various musical halls of fame, a specific time period was not required from the release date of their initial commercial recording in order for them to be considered.